Advocacy Group Asks Court to Quash List of Supreme Court Justice-nominees

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An advocacy group, Access to Justice (A2Justice), has filed a suit against the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) and the National Judicial Council (NJC) at the Federal High Court in Abuja, challenging the recent elevation of  four Justices of the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court  bench.

The group asked the court to quash the list of the nominees submitted by the FJSC and NJC for consideration as Supreme Court justices.

FJSC and NJC are the 1st and 2nd respondents in the suit, respectively.

The plaintiffs, in the suit no: FHC/ABJ/CS/1460/2019, said the FJSC and NJC failed to comply with the established judicial appointment procedures, and therefore circumvented aspects of those procedures which make the recruitment process transparent, fair, merit-based and competitive and further failed to disclose information that would enable interested persons monitor how the recruitment exercise was done.

The four justices are: Adamu Jauro, Emmanuel A. Agim, C. Oseji and Helen M. Ogunwumiju.

Other respondents in the suit are the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad; Senate President, Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan; and President Muhammadu Buhari.

A2Justice argued that both the 2014 Judicial Appointment Guidelines and the 2016 National Judicial Policy made far-reaching changes to previous judicial recruitment systems that were characterised by lack of transparency, opacity, lack of a level-playing field, influence-peddling and nepotism.

The advocacy group stated that the 2014 Judicial Appointment Guidelines and the 2016 National Judicial Policy prioritised and promoted values of transparency, openness, merit and the availability of equal opportunity to all persons interested in judicial offices.

It added that both instruments intend, in other words, to provide a level-playing field for all eligible persons interested in serving in judicial offices, whether they are currently serving as judges/justices, are in private practice or in academic institutions of learning.

A2Justice noted that the lawsuit, filed on its behalf by Jude Ogodi and Joseph Otteh, is the latest in the series of steps it has taken as part of a longstanding advocacy to reform judicial appointment processes in Nigeria and ensure that judicial selection procedures are conducted transparently, competitively and are merit-based as well as meet required standards of integrity

It contended that the appointments did not comply with the provisions of the extant revised NJC Guidelines and Procedural Rules for the Appointment of Judicial Officers of All Superior Courts of Record in Nigeria and the National Judicial Policy 2016 which are instruments made and adopted by the judicial council.

The group said several attempts it made to ascertain the extent of compliance of the respondents with the 2014 NJC Guidelines for the Appointment of Judicial Officers using the Freedom of Information Act drew blank as they failed to respond to its enquiries.